The Humble WordPress Excerpt

Your WordPress theme may default to displaying archive pages with a snippet of text taken from the first 55 words. This is unlikely to be ideal for you, your visitors, or search engines. Using the excerpt gives you more control.

3 Aug, 2018

What is an excerpt in WordPress?

Did you know you can use something called ‘The WordPress Excerpt’ on your website to make your blog archive pages more appealing to visitors?

What WordPress says: The WordPress Excerpt is an optional summary or description of a post; in short, a post summary

I know from experience with my own clients that this little field is often overlooked in the rush to get a new blog post live, and yet it can be such a powerful tool to drive more visitors to read your post. Here’s how it works…

How the WordPress Excerpt works

Left to its own devices, your theme will display a list of posts on your blog archives pages typically containing the post title, your featured image, and a snippet of text taken from the first 55 words of your post. This snippet is unlikely to be the one you would want to display to compel your readers to click through to read the full post. It’s also unlikely to be the text you would choose for search engines to help them associate the archive entry with the full post.

So, given that it only takes just a minute or so to craft a more meaningful snippet… why wouldn’t you do it?

If your current WordPress archive pages look something like this, then you need excerpts…

Screenshot of WordPress archive page not using excerpts

Edit each of your posts. Scroll down until you see the small ‘Excerpt’ box towards the bottom of the page, and then put some compelling text in there that describes your post (in a nutshell). Update the post and go and take a look at your archive page again. Does it look better?

When writing your excerpt, try to find something snappy and really intriguing, as you’re trying to tempt your visitor to read more. You should be able to use html in your excerpt (although not always!). It’s a good idea to keep all of your excerpts at around the same length, as this will then look more consistent on your archives page.

Hint: Try editing just one post to start with, and see if that looks different on your archive page before editing all the others. Your theme might not be using excerpts properly, and so you’d be wasting your time editing your posts if that is the case. If that’s the case, try checking through your theme options to see whether there is a setting to enable post excerpts.

What is a blog archive page?

A blog archive page is a summary of a number of posts from your site. Typically, this would include your main blog or news page, but can also include search results pages, tag archives, category archives, monthly archives, and author archives.

Do all themes use the WordPress excerpt?

By default, WordPress always makes the excerpt available. Some themes elect not to use it, though. If that’s the case, you might need to directly edit your theme template files to force its display. This is fairly straightforward, but beyond the scope of this article – let us know if you’d like us to take a look for you.

I can’t see the WordPress excerpt box

Screenshot showing where to find the WordPress Screen Options tab

If you can’t find the excerpt box when you edit your post and have scrolled right down to the bottom of the page without success, try clicking the little ‘Screen Options’ tab in the top right corner of your page. This should open up a dialog showing some check boxes. If you see one called ‘Excerpt’ and it isn’t already clicked… click it and you should now see the excerpt field appear on your post edit page.

I hope this has helped. For a small amount of extra effort, you’ll find that using excerpts will help increase the traffic to your blog posts. We’ve published a very comprehensive checklist of things to do before publishing your WordPress posts here.

Need some WordPress help? Let us know what your problem is and we’ll be in touch.

1 Comment

  1. Vanda

    Thanks for your article. As often happens I fell at the first hurdle – couldn’t find the ‘Excerpt’ box – and then, I clicked the cog up top right by UPDATE, scrolled down and there it was!


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